Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mad Max/ PlayStation 4

Lets start with the sad facts, about the fantastic open world game, Mad Max.....its broken. I watched a YouTube video, were the content creator, speaking about the game Mad Max, dropped in a disclaimer, claiming that Mad Max is not a buggy game. I can only imagine, that he was fearful of not receiving ad revenue, because quite frankly, he is full of shit. After almost 5 days, of hard graft, to try and complete the game, platinum trophy and all, I have come across the well documented scrap glitch, that can stop you from completing all non-repeating challenges and therefor put a spanner in the works of attempting the platinum completion. It is a total head fuck, when you are so sure that you are going to be able to get this one and yet another reason not to rush out and buy AAA titles at full price. Why, I must ask, after this game has been out for so long, is it an issue? I am not the only one to of had this problem, so surely it could of been fixed and if not, then why send out a game that cannot be fully completed? Money, that's fucking why, every fucking time! Okay, I get it. Big businesses, with big shares to pay out, need to make sure they can cover their costs, but surely, it makes more sense, to focus, on satisfying those who are going to put the money into your bank account, to cover such costs in the first place. Surely? Rant over. If you happen to know a way around this glitch, please inform me in the comment section, so that I may finish the game, because up until this had happened, I had had an absolute blast of nostalgia, whilst playing this game.  

As is the case with the Alien franchise (see my Alien Isolation and Colonial Marines reviews), my love of Mad Max, goes way back. I am not sure which of the films that it is, that I saw first, but I do know which one sticks in my mind most (the often underappreciated), Beyond Thunderdome. I may of seen this one first and then went in reverse, noting that the first of the films is very different to what comes afterwards. Also, as was the case with purchasing Alien: Isolation, I waited and watched the price of Mad Max fall, before deciding to pick up the metal tin, special edition, at a low price.

'When I was younger, I didn't purchase games at full price, because of a lack of funds.' 
'Today I do not purchase them at full price, because there are so many issues with modern games.'

The shiny tin then sat at home, looking shiny, until the completion of another game I was playing happened and I decided it was now time to crack open the tin. The contents, was worth the £15 that I paid for it second hand. Still in good condition, the codes were almost all unused and a giant poster was to be found, also in good condition. Would I have been pleased with this contents at full price? Slightly satisfied, is the answer.
'If you haven't realised already, I am slightly pissed about my experience with Mad Max, so far.'
Once fired up (loading) and into the explosive opening of the game, my interests were certainly piqued. I will admit, that it began very true to the films of Mad Max, no messing around, the intentions are set, like a match striking gasoline (Throughout, the words, high octane gasoline, kept coming into my mind); however, I can imagine, if you are a 20-something year old, who has possibly only seen the newest of Mad Max film instalments and have been playing none stop Ubisoft titles, that Mad Max may just seem like another one of those games, given that the bare bones of this game, are that it is an open world adventure, with plenty of side missions and a skeleton thin main story. However, for me, Mad Max, is so much more; it is a fair representation of the almost none existent dialogue of Max, throughout the first three films and more than just a tribute to the old and the new. I would suggest, that it is an excellent continuation of the franchise, despite its flaws (again, I mention Beyond Thunderdome).
Despite, the story line being wafer thin, it isn't something that you can just rush through quite quickly or would want to. The bulk of the game, centres around levelling up Max and modifying his Magnum Opus, which will eventually lead him to the boss (Scabrous Scrotus), who somehow managed to survive a chainsaw to the head, during his first encounter with Max. The goal for Max, is to retrieve the V8 engine (which he learns that he can win in a race in Gastown), to build the ultimate interceptor and continue on with his lonesome journey of survival.
'Right up until the moment that I realised that the platinum trophy was probably not going to be possible, I was having an absolute blast playing this game; so much so, that I barely played anything else alongside it, as I was so involved in the mission of helping Max to achieve the goal of capturing the V8.'

So then, what did I enjoy about this brutal assault to the senses of a game, you may be asking by now?
Lets put it this way. With any sort of game, where the basic idea is survival of the fittest, whether it is post apocalyptic, survival horror or a good rpg, there is so much that I can relate to because of my own life experiences, that I just get sucked right in, as though it is time for me to personally step up to the next challenge that life is throwing at me. Being a fan of Mad Max, as a film, certainly helped, but it was more than that, that kept me entertained for over 120 hours. The atmosphere of the game is surprisingly boisterous, considering that you spend the majority of the game cruising the desert looking for (not Priscilla) car parts, that will make the Magnum Opus fit enough for the journey to Gastown and this is partly due to the fact that scattered across the wastes there are mass compounds, some heavily guarded, full of enemies, where upon, once inside, things kick off quickly, with Max fighting in a style that will be vaguely familiar to anyone who has played the trio of last gen Batman games released by WB Games. Similar also, is the lack of weapons and an enthusiast on hand to hand combat, which takes a hardcore wrestling approach, with a shot gun or knife as back up for breaking up large crowds and finishing off combos in style. There are also enemies out in the desert in cars, which will occasionally cross your path or sneak up behind you, to give you reason to test out some of the high power Magnum Opus upgrades, such as the side burners or the harpoon; the harpoon can be comical if fired into an enemy driver and ripped back out bringing the driver with its hook.
Are you still with me? This is why I loved playing the game so much. The action is not only explosive, but also graphically brutal....often.

The levelling up of not only Max, but also the Magnum Opus, is not overly done and keeps you in the mind set of just one more side mission, because you really want more ammo for the shot gun or you really want to hear the roar of the next engine upgrade. Its simplistic, but worth every piece of scrap that you salvage and every bone that you break to take over an 
enemy settlement, because you will really feel the benefit from one upgrade to the next. The only complaint that I have, is that once you have maxed out past Road Warrior, you keep levelling up with no further benefits. I went past level 100, which was unnecessary. The theme of the game overall, is borderline psychosis. There is a very ghostly feel to the game at times, with Max having flashbacks and being invited to journey through time and space, by a desert shaman who will release you of your Griffa tokens, which can be used for levelling up such things as health and less fuel usage in the Magnum Opus. Again, once levelled up to about the mid-way point, surviving on the long stretches of desert road becomes so much easier. Add to this the fact that you can fast travel to settlements where you can eventually stock up on all supplies as soon as you enter, the survival element kind of goes out the window, leaving you basically just roaring around smashing peoples jaws and blowing up things, which is still heaps of fun. The world of Mad Max is massive. You will most likely, as I did, look at the world map to begin with and think, one day max and then quickly realise as you are driving, just how ridiculous that initial thought was. There is so much to do and even if the game is bugged, it is still worth a go at full completion; you can at least get every trophy bar the illusive platinum. 'Fuck you WB.' 
Plus, if nothing else, you get to rip around a lawless wasteland, in an Interceptor, with Quasimodo for a side kick.

And this is where I will end. Don't let my rant put you off, if you have yet to play this game. Without the bug, for me it is a classic and a beautiful homage to a world that I have know since I was young. With the bug, it is a slight pain in the ass, that in this day and age, we are still being subjected to such utter shite and expected to part with our cash for something that isn't complete. Enjoy and thanks for reading.

Twitter: @Illuminatitingz
New YouTube streaming coming soon.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Alien: Isolation/ PS4

Have you ever played a game that blew you away so much, that was so awesome, that when it comes to talking about your experience of it, you are lost for words and do not know where to begin?
This is how I feel about Alien: Isolation and it is partly why it is only now that I am blogging about it. 
I feel that there is so much to talk about, that I have kept putting it off until that overwhelming feeling of the task at hand has subsided. Now, I feel ready and thankfully, inside my head, as I get lost in trying to describe the experience that I have had with this game, whilst writing about it, nobody can hear me scream. 

I knew before playing Alien: Isolation, that it was going to be a good game. I could sense it, even though I didn't see much in the way of advertising for it. I didn't rush out to buy it. In fact, I was more than late to the party when I began to stream my game-play over YouTube.....
I watched as the price of the game dropped quickly, eventually deciding that it was time to purchase a copy when it was down to around £15. This is pretty much how I do game buying today. If I am paying big bucks for games, in general, it is to add retro games to my ever growing collection.
Game purchased, I began playing. Instantly, I was in awe at the graphics, which set the scene of the Alien world perfectly, really capturing the mood of the first Alien film. I made it all the way to the first encounter with the xenomorph, thinking wow, over and over and then my frustrations began. Once the alien is in stalking mode, you have to get very strategic about how you move around, otherwise you will be snapped up and head smashed very quickly. The frequency in which this was happening to me in the beginning, started to put me off wanting to continue playing, which I eventually did, bypassing the game case for weeks before finally having another go and even then it was a stop start affair, until I figured out what I was doing wrong. I was moving too slowly. It took me forever, it felt, to figure this out. I was moving so slowly, that I was actually alerting the alien and the androids, more than if I were to move more quickly. Once, I had realised this, I was off and.... well, not running, but certainly not standing still, waiting for my head to be pierced or body pumped full of holes.

'Changing the format to my usual blogging, lets get into the game.'

As a long time fan of the Alien franchise (ever since almost wetting myself watching Aliens), it isn't difficult for me to get excited at the prospect of a new addition to either film or game. Lets face it, there have been some heavy weights and even the light weights such as both Alien 3, game and film are not too bad to sit through. Colonial Marines (check my blog about this one), helped me to understanding the potential that a new gen Alien game could have for greatness; despite its obvious flaws, it is a half decent shooter. Isolation, fulfilled this potential and then some. Stepping out into the blackness of space, as the daughter of Ripley, was a blast from the past brought into the future. All throughout the nightmare that takes place on board the Sevastopol, I was genuinely frightened and had to constantly remind myself to breathe and loosen off my neck and hand muscles with some yoga poses every time I could huddle into an air shaft and risk staying still for a moment. The whole experience is intense to say the least.
Although some have called out that Alien: Isolation, is not a survival horror, I beg to differ. Sure it isn't a straight traditional, but it is as close to the original experience that I have personally felt I have been in a long fact, at times, it can easily feel as though you have been warped into the first Alien film, which in itself is a story of desperate survival. The aim of the game, is not to blast your way through the game (we all know how that one plans out, right)? You do have weapons and explosives, but these are merely for show most of the time and strictly for emergency escapes. Try throwing flash bangs around randomly and see how long you last before the back of your skull is spat onto the ground. You must choose your path wisely and limit how much noise you make, even neglecting your tracker at times, especially if you should have to hide under a table or inside a locker and even then you better hold your breath if that slimy mush of an alien mouth should breathe its stink breath up close and personal. Am I making myself clear? You will have to survive the horror. This is why, Alien: Isolation, is a survival horror. It has almost all of the elements of the classics, such as Resident Evil, only the perspective is first person. This however is valid, given that the engine created form scratch, by developers Creative Assembly, has allowed for the most authentic looking Alien game to date. Despite the panic of attempting to get from one area to the next, I couldn't help but stop and look out into space or look around the rooms that I shifted through quickly. It is to date, one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 4. Everything looks nice and I don't remember anything glitching out....oh actually, there was the odd floating object from time to time, but mostly the game is flawless.
The plot is typical of the Alien continuity. You are in space, there is an alien on board the ship that you occupy, you don't want to die, but don't quite know what to do and for some stupid reason, Weyland-Yutani want to keep the said alien. To be honest, it is nothing new, but done rather well and could of worked as a better film adaptation in place of the newly released Alien: Covenant. It makes sense. Ripley's daughter, in space, seeking closure, finding it in the form of having to face up to the same horrors that her mother did. The action of the game is fast paced and explosive, as the space station that you land on, literally starts to explode as you work your way through it, from one nail biting (or face hugging) scenario to the next, until finally the inevitable happens; the alien is blasted into space, with a little twists to the original film plots. If you love the first two films, then you will no doubt love this game.
The highlight for me, is how involved the makers of this game make you feel, utilising the use of the PlayStation camera and microphone, which can make the game even more difficult to play, but that creates an atmosphere that will literally put you on the edge of your seat and the one downside is that there isn't a chapter selection, meaning that trophy hunting is a longer affair for completionists, which is a shame, because it is pretty straightforward picking up a large amount of them.

'£10, now, for game and dlc, get out and buy it, if you haven't played this game already.'

'Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.'

I am back on Twitter: @Illuminatitingz
New live stream Monday will be coming next month (August), where I will be playing through old and new titles in my massive video game collection.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Marc Ecko's Getting Up Contents Under Pressure/ Xbox

A graffiti artists heaven in a game world and still today a very impressive game to look at and play. Marc Ecko, of Ecko clothing fame and Atari of ET infamy, teamed up for this title, which is a joy to play whether or not you are a graffiti artist yourself.
I happen to be a graffiti artist, so when this game was announced it was music to my ears (funnily enough it also has a cracking soundtrack).
In the years before this game came out, when I was at the peak of my own graffiti bombing, I had often said that a graffiti game would be an amazing game to bring out (Jet Set Radio, doesn't count). Back then I didn't understand the powers of the mind and matter manifestations, so it was a shock when those prays were answered. Today I expect nothing less of my thoughts and I am way more cautious with them. I remember picking the game up from Game and rushing back home to play. As soon as it loaded up, I was hooked and played nothing else until it had been completed around a week later. Had I not been a graffiti artist, I feel that I still would of been hooked on a game that has a lot to offer to the average gamer.

'Let's go and explore the game.'

The Plot

There really doesn't need to be one, but in order to make the game playable to all including people like myself who have studied graffiti for many years, it does have one. You are in control of the protagonist (graffiti artist) Trane.

'Trane is like many graffiti artists, that I have encountered during my years of being a writer on the outskirts of the local graffiti scene; young, traumatised and pissed off for some reason.'

Trane's father was murdered, after being hired as an assassin by a corrupt politician, who is hell bent on staying in power and covering his tracks as he dishes out his shady dealings. The backstory is revealed to Trane through another graffiti artist, Decoy, who is then also conveniently murdered by another assassin. Trane, originally set out to make a name for himself as a graffiti artist, but after his encounter with Decoy, he also gets wrapped up in attempting to put a stop to Snug's (corrupt politician) murderous reign. Along the way, Trane will get up in some mind boggling spots, battle his rival graffiti artists and the CCK, as well as crossing paths with some of the legends of the New York graffiti scene.

Gameplay (Beat 'em up, Action Adventure)

Plot aside, this is where the game really entertains, especially if you happen to be a graffiti artist with a love for the origins of graff. The game has many aspects to the way that you can play it, as it offers a 3d platform experience when putting up graffiti, options of stealth, when taking down enemies and bombing, or straight up kicking butt, beat em up style. It isn't an open world, but there is a lot of freedom to move around, as one of the key parts of the play is to get your graffiti art up as much as possible, meaning that you are able to climb up onto the side of bridges, scale motorway signs and train carts, as well as tagging the sides of buildings and vehicles. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are also opportunities to seek out and photograph legend graffiti art, which isn't always a straightforward quest; the options for tagging and painting are fantastic also, not strictly limited to a marker and a paint can, but also including such things as wheat paste and stencils. The game plays from beginning to end in a linear way. There aren't any side quests, so it won't take many hours to get through, but there is replay value, simply because there are a lot of (sometimes hidden) collectables and a lot of different graffiti designs that you probably won't use all in the first play through. Putting graffiti up, is smooth. I was so impressed with the mechanics for doing so and the abundance of ways in which you can get your tag up, whilst noting that a lot of the burner designs are from graffiti legends, such as Arab. The more that you advance in the game, the more designs that will become available, will be able to be put up with more accessories, such as the above mentioned, stencils and wheat paste. Given that Marc Ecko, was a graffiti artist himself, shows in the time that has been put into making this part of the game as authentic as possible. As you journey through the game, you get to visit some well known graffiti hotspots, such as the legendary ghost yard, whilst interacting with some cool muthafucka's from the real life graffiti scene and it is this, although short, that buzzed me the most; for a brief moment I felt like I was meeting them face to face. To show some love for those artists, I have chosen to write about my personal history of studying their art next.

In order of influence that each artist has affected my own graffiti journey.

  • Seen -  One of the coolest cats from the old-school (as far back as you can go into the New York scene) is Seen, who in my eyes, painted one of the dopest spots ever, the Hollywood sign. Still painting today, but mainly tattooing, I was feeling the art of Seen, right from the first time that I saw him talking about do-das's, in Style Wars. His style of painting, was style, whilst keeping the shape of the letters simple; simple enough that you can see clearly in every piece that it is Seen. His blockbuster burners and partnership with Mad and Duster, blew my mind everytime that I was flicking through the likes of Subway Art. You meet Seen in the ghost yard.
  • T-Kid - Styles for miles and the attitude to match. T-Kid, another artist still around today, is very close to Seen, in terms of how much time I have spent looking at his art. Always one for having bright and wild burners, that just trip off of the wall. I remember looking through a Danish graffiti mag that I owned, looking through T-Kid's black book burners that accompanied his interview, thinking fuck me, even his drawings are mind bending. T-Kid, was almost always in the graffiti mags that I religiously went through in my youth, looking for inspiration. T-Kid, teaches you about burners.  
  • Cope2 - When I think of Cope2, I think sheer volume of work. Cope2, has been rocking it almost non stop, since the mid 80's and as a result, he has become one of the most successful graffiti artists, in terms of making money and public recognition, notably being one of the artists to have his work plastered onto Adidas that's fucking dope. Cope2, is a mean looking dude, who paints with a style that says fuck you toy. I have seen various documentaries, where he shows off this attitude whilst painting, walking into yards like he owns them for his graffiti to be displayed. None surprisingly, you meet Cope2, at the layup.
  • Futura - Never an artist that was heavily advertised as I was researching many hours of the who's who in the graffiti world, as I was developing my own styles, but always one that when eventually coming into view of my eyes, that would make me go 'wow.' Futura, was ahead of the times. Hence the very fitting tag and a style that was to be emulated with the 80's acid trippers of the UK graffiti scene. Futura, tags your black-book in the street.
  • Sane Smith - I can remember the tag Sane, but it wasn't until many years later that I began to see the tag Smith. Smith is the brother of Sane, whose work he has kept alive since his death in the 80's. 
  • Obey - Not a fan of his work or the whole street art movement, but I can appreciate his success as an artist and can say that he was one of a handful of artist who came to my home town, being commissioned to have his work displayed on the local metro system. This was a few years prior to the youth walking around with his tag plastered all over their clothing. 'Obey.' How about fuck you? Jokes. 
And back to the game-play. Marc Ecko has stated that he wasn't entirely happy with the production of the game. To be honest, from an artist's point of view, I can see why that would be (perfectionism), but this was a long time ago; original Xbox. That far back. Looking at the game today, you could say that it was a massive achievement to have such a complex game on the systems of that day. It is still crisp looking. The graphics on the Xbox for me looked and still do look tops, even in HD. It is voice acted brilliantly (except for the artist cameos), with the likes of Charlie Murphy (R.I.P) and Talib Kweli, lending their voices to characters. The soundtrack is banging (Mobb Deep). There are many different aspects to the game-play, as previously mentioned, there is a lot going on on the screen at any one time; for example painting the side of a moving train is highly impressive. You can shift the camera around and the controls are very satisfying, even with that big ass Xbox controller. There was a mass of information on one disk, with small loading times. All in all, I am surprised that the whispered rumour of a sequel has never materialised, as I can only speculate as to what could be achieved with today's generation of consoles. Sadly, graffiti and Marc Ecko, have probably had their time in the limelight, so another game may never come. Would I want to manifest another? The answer is not really. I had my time too, with hip hop and with graffiti, watching now, only from a distance, whilst painting for leisure. Regardless, Getting Up, will probably end up as one of those games that finds its way onto hidden gems lists, so best off, go grab yourself that sealed, limited edition, with soundtrack, whilst it's still cheap. Overall Getting Up, is a coming of age type of scenario, with a hint of social oppression, documenting the trials and tribulations that some of the youth of the Western world go through, just to be noticed. You can play the game for what it is striving to be or you can get lost in a world of 'graff' that you may find safer and more accessible from your video games console.
For the sheer fact that Getting Up, touched all the right spots in my youth, I score it a straight 10 out of 10.
Let me know in the comments, if you have played this game and what you think of it.
Happy Gaming.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Gaming Addiction

After a little break from the social media side of gaming; something that has become a massive part of being a gamer in the last 5 or so years (depending on who you are talking too), I have decided to come back to my blog with a topic that I have experienced throughout my many years of gaming and have noticed is now becoming a very real issue with other people too. Gaming addiction.

Let's start with a little history.

My own gaming time line, goes all the way back to the 80's.Which year I cannot remember, but I do remember being hooked on a little table top, Space Invaders, not long before I was handed my first Atari 7800.

I was hooked from the get go and completely, for better or for worse, handed over my life, like a soul sold to the devil, to gaming. Every opportunity that I had, I wanted to game. I played as much as possible in my home (usually when the only TV in the home was free), I played in the homes of friends and if possible, I played in stores when out shopping with my mother. Gaming was blowing up in the late 80's where I lived; especially when home computers became popular (the C64) and it is for this reason that I grew up saying 'computer games' rather than video games. When I was young, I would of never considered that such a thing as being addicted to video games could be possible. It was as much a part of people's lives as football is and something that was shared by children and adults alike; just as it still is today. It is in hindsight though that I can see, that my very first period of gaming addiction, came with the release of the Nintendo Game Boy.

Christmas, of 1990, it was the main present that I received from my mother, along with the similar in style games, Tetris and Dr Mario. Although I did have consoles as the years went by after 1990, it was the Game Boy that I played the most (possibly all the way up until 1998). I couldn't put this handheld down once I had picked it up and became fiendish every time that the batteries ran out. I fantasied about which games I wanted my mother to buy next and held pray in my mind that they would arrive sooner rather than later. This handheld, literally went everywhere with me:

  • Family outing's (any outing's)
  • To school
  • In the bath
  • In the bed
  • When I played out
This of course is just a few examples of how Game Boy, became a part of my body. I scratch my head today and wonder how it is that at the age of 34, I still have my eyesight intact and no arthritis in my hands. (Yoga! that's how).
Still though, when thinking in terms of what addiction is to some, I can look back on those years and say that although I without a doubt, in fashion to what was the norm and still is the norm, played many hours of video games, when I could of been doing other things, the only real issue that I had and can still have today, is that gaming can be something that I do to escape the reality of a life situation that may be bothering me (my childhood was mental). Is this such a bad thing though? I would suggest that if this was the only outlet a person should have for dealing with life problems, then yes, it may well be a problem that could take over a person in the manner that drugs can too; the escape becomes more important than reality. Have I experienced this with video games? No. But I have recognised time and time again, when gaming is becoming a little on the obsessive side and interfering with my concentration on other things that are of more importance.
Back in the 2010, I had one such moment, where I decided that I was done with gaming. I needed to make a dramatic change in my life in order to get out of a shitty situation that I was in and decided that part of this change had to be that for a period of time not specified, I needed to be as free of technology as I realistically could be. It was also around this time, that my son (now 12), became more of a gamer himself, so whilst I shunned consoles myself, they were still around me, so on occasion I would still venture into gaming for an hour or two, here and there. This hiatus lasted a long time, only being broken when my son asked for a PlayStation 4, for Christmas, back in 2014. I decided to try out the console before handing it over and was so blown away by the new technology that I was sucked back into the world of gaming big time. 
Which brings us to the present day.

All of a sudden, I became a collector, not just a gamer and have amassed a library of games totalling roughly 500 games, on 10 different systems, with 1000's of emulated games on some of the consoles that I now own. It happened fast. So fast, that I completely forgot for a moment that I run my own business and began to venture into becoming a social media gamer, momentarily making gaming more important than the work that I love and the money that said work generates for me to be able to buy and play so many games in the first place. It didn't last long (social media). It began with the healthy outlet of writing this blog, which combines two things that I have loved, like forever; gaming and writing and quickly manifested into boasting on sites such as Instagram and attempting to be a YouTuber, like I know something about something. Needless to say, I began to feel pretty burnt out, pretty quickly as my non working hours were becoming an obsessive checking of social media and hours attempting to make gaming related videos as well as play games. I just could not do it and as a consequence I began to feel like not showing up for my life. Thankfully, just as had been the case back in 2010, I listened to my inner voice shouting at me 'Daniel!'
'Either be great at one thing or mediocre at two.'
No matter how much I love gaming, the reality for me is that gaming is an outlet for me to relax when the days work is done and if it is not relaxing me, as it wasn't recently, then something has got to give. My life today is beautiful and it is partly this way because I have the sense time and time again to do things that best serve me and those who I interact with daily. It is for this reason, that I have decided to curb my spending on games, shut down social media that I had running for gaming and to focus on playing video games in my spare time and writing for my blog as and when I feel like it, not because I feel like I need to keep up some sort of appearance in the massive gaming world.
Happy gaming.
This is exactly how it should be.
Feel free to share any similar experiences that you have had down in the comments. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Flashback! The Origianl Xbox

The beast and the best in terms of consoles, that I hold close to my heart, when expressing my passion for console gaming. For this reason, I have chosen to write about my own history of gaming, still to this day, on a system, that could of been the death of Microsoft in the console wars.

Back in 2002 I was coming out of my massive adventure with the Sony PlayStation. The PlayStation 2 had been released and a lot of my friends were getting them for Christmas, as did one of my brothers, so I was experiencing, first hand, the advancement in technology that was clear to be seen with the new gen. However, I held out after hearing of Microsoft's intention to also enter into the games console business, which I sensed would produce a much more powerful console, given that Microsoft made powerful PC's at this point. I wasn't a massive PC gamer, but I had played enough games to understand that there was always a noticeable difference between playing games on a desktop and playing games on a console. Once I had my first Xbox, there was a noticeable difference, a difference that almost retired me from PlayStation gaming, save for the release of the PS4, which got me back into gaming big time. 

So two things happened in 2002 (well a lot of things actually).
1: In October of this year my son was born into the world.
2: Christmas of that year I was handed my first Xbox.

The first Xbox that I owned was a crystal (clear) Xbox, with the games Colin McRae Rally 3 and Splinter Cell. (Shout out to the ex's mother for that one).
 Colin McRae 2.0 had been one of my favourite games to play on the PlayStation, so I was excited and not disappointed with the third instalment. Splinter Cell however I couldn't get into, mainly because of a new born baby being in the home, I just couldn't play for long enough to give it a serious play through. So instead I opted for games that could be put in and played without the worry about having to keep up with a story or play through long levels. I was still fanatical about football (soccer) at this point and was hugely disappointed that my favourite football game at the time, (Pro Evo) didn't transfer over to the Xbox, mainly because of the focus on analogue control, which interrupted the flow of the game that was apparent when using the PS2 control pad. I was also disappointed with the lack of a Resident Evil title; Resident Evil being my favourite survival horror series from the PlayStation, which continued over on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. Putting those disappointments to one side, the lack of familiar games to begin with, pushed me into exploring new titles that were not necessarily exclusive to Xbox, but not what I would of usually went for. 
'When I was young, I was all about comfort and familiarity, so I either played what was popular with my friends or stayed within the confines of the series of games that I knew best.'
 My gaming on Xbox lasted all the way up until the release of the Xbox 360, which I naturally graduated to. Over the course of the years since 2005, the big black X has been in and out of my possession, with me currently owning two modified boxes.
I loved my time playing Xbox in the early years and I played many, many titles, which I will aim to write about in more detail, keeping it down to around 10 of my favourite games that I either played all the way through or played and have come back to today.
But, before getting to the games, there is one other thing that I would like to touch on.
I played a lot of titles that I just didn't get for one reason or another, so gave up on a lot of games early on, to find out later on down the line, that it was more my state of mind that impacted game play, rather than confusing development. I was in a dark place both mentally and emotionally during this period of my life, so it has been a delight, to be rediscovering the Xbox, all over again these past few years, with a completely enlightened perception of myself and this world that I live.

The Games

1. Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. 
Not at number 1 because I deem it to be the best of the games that I played, but more because it is the
most memorable and the game that I was hyped over more than any other. Why? Well it is simple. I am a graffiti artist. I had been at the peak of my graffiti art (illegal) career when it was announced and had spoken prior to this about how a graffiti art game would be the dogs bollocks of gaming. Added to this, it is also the works of Mark Ecko, who's clothing line was massive and worn by heads such as myself. (I can still remember the red jacket that I owned). Putting the art to one side, you can also play this game simply for the beat 'em up, action adventure that it is and have a ton of fun doing so. As a graffiti artist, the highlight of the game is the real life graffiti artists and graffiti hot spots that you come into contact with throughout the game and of course the banging sound track that hosts none other than the infamous Mobb Deep.

2. Still Life.
One of my favourite games on Xbox period and a game that I am still yet to beat. Since the first time that I owned it, I have made three attempts to get through this game without (as much as possible) using a walkthrough. To say that it is difficult is an understatement, but this doesn't stop it from being an enjoyable, if frustrating game to play. The sequel to a PC game (Post Mortem), Still Life is your typical point and click adventure, in the style that was common place in 90's PC gaming; very difficult, but often graphically superior to any console release and voice acted rather well. Still Life is in this manner and completely blew me away when I first put it on to play and marvelled at what I was seeing. It does however look a little dated today. The plot is a murder mystery, similar to the case of Jack The Ripper. There are many shocking moments and a little nudity, which at the time, would of been rocking the boat a little, had there not already been so much attention, on some of Rockstar's games. Still life is exclusive to Xbox (there is a PC version).

3. Deus Ex: Invisible War.
Before I even knew of Deus Ex or the Illuminati for that matter, I had played and completed Invisible War. I cannot remember the purchase, but I can remember how consumed I was with completing the game once I had gotten into it. It was a little different to what I was used to playing at the time. For a start, it is a stealth game and my head was mashed at this point in time, so I don't even know where the patience came from in order to get through it. Having said that though, I do know that I was relentless in finishing this fantastic game (better than the later titles). The plot is thick in conspiracy dirt and like a lot of games that I love, there are some rpg elements to how you go about shaping the story, which for this reason it is, that it had me truly captivated from beginning to end. Graphics wise, this was also one of the best looking games at the time.

4. Second Sight.
When I think of this game, I also think of the film Dreamcatcher. Give me a plot involving aliens and 9 out of 10 times I am there until the end; as with the above Deus Ex, I was with Second Sight right up until the end. Also this is another game that involves a lot of stealth. Now that I think back, I actually finished a few games that were similar in style, which is an achievement in itself, given that I stopped playing a lot of games just because I got stuck at a certain point. Second Sight, once you get past that dammed training exercise (that almost stopped me going further), starts to play out a little similar to Fahrenheit (which I also love), but without all the button mashing to get through quick time events. You control the protagonist John Vattic (who has mysteriously developed psychic abilities), through an awesome action adventure that ends with some alien shizz going down at the end.

5. Vietcong: Purple Haze.
Probably not one high on many people's list of top games, given that there has for a long time been an abundance of war games that attract huge followings. I am not that fussed about said games myself, however I have been in love with films about the Vietnam war since childhood and it was this love that pushed me to purchase Vietcong: Purple Haze. The game has an air of realism to it, at least it feels like you are watching an over the top American version of what went down in the heated jungles of the Nam, back in the 60's and 70's. I have no doubt that the makers of this game, have at least a similar interest to my own, if not being huge fans of such movies too. The game is a tactical fps. You take charge of a squad of special forces, going through various missions, where the aim is to keep your squad alive as well as fending off enemies and completing objectives. It took me a while to get used to the tactical side of thing's, especially given that at this time, my OCD was crazy; I had to do everything perfect or start again. Once I did get past this though, I saw the game out until the end, which is something straight out of Platoon.

6. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.
To be honest, I just didn't get it at first. The same was to be said about Fallout 3 also. It wasn't until I had an operation and had nothing to do but sit and play Fallout: New Vegas, all day, that I finally got into the series in a big way. I found the game difficult to play first time around (not passing the first boss) and dialog heavy in a way that I couldn't concentrate properly on what I was supposed to be doing. However the second time that I played this game, I absolutely loved it; especially the humour that is present in all of the games that I now have in my collection. The game is an arpg, in a top down style that you could call a console version of a classic PC style rpg. I didn't get to finish the game, as I started to play it again just as I was on the verge of a break from gaming. Recently I picked up the Xbox version, then days later the PS2 version, which I found in a charity shop. That was a good find, as the game has become sort after, with prices seemingly on the up for a second hand copy. Of all the original Fallout out games, this is the one that I suggest all try out.

7. Gun.
Lets just say that I have unfinished business with this game. I saw it advertised on the TV and knew right away that it was going to be a game that I would enjoy immensely. It was and I played it constantly, right up until I got stuck on a boss battle and then, I gave up, just as I had with many games previously and many games after. Back then, I was such a purist. I wouldn't use cheats or guides to get through games, which meant that I would abandon games no matter how close to completion I was. On the plus side, I have many games still to finish and less stubbornness today. Gun is a fantastic Western, action adventure, in an open world, with all of the stereo-typical scenarios that you would find in an old Spaghetti Western. Expect a good old show of cowboys and Indians.

8. Need For Speed Underground 2.
The best of this long running (and now shitty) franchise and a game that I played the heck out of. Of my first run on the Xbox when I was younger, this game and one other were played more than any other. The second game, we are coming too soon. I loved Underground 2 back then and I still love it today. I borrowed the first Underground game from a work colleague, when I was borrowing a PS2 from my then girlfriend's brother (it was complicated). The game was a refreshing update to a series of racing games that had been released mainly on the PS1. Shortly afterwards, Underground 2 came out and I purchased a copy for my Xbox. It was even better than the first game in many ways; graphics, game world, cars and the ability to upgrade and mod them, music and so much more. The thing that I enjoyed the most (as did my one of my brothers, whom played the game with me) about Underground 2, was the modifications that could be made to the cars; it truly made for an immersive experience, not just a straight up race game.

9. Championship Manager 02/03.
I grew up a football fan and became a football addict in my teens, which sounds so alien to repeat, as today you couldn't pay me to go and watch a game of football. During the years that I was an addict, I was bang into playing football games and sims, such as Championship Manager. This is the second game that had more hours (often into the early hours of the morning) dedicated to it than any other game that I played. A slightly stripped down version of the PC game, that my friend and I had battled it out on against each other since the previous season. I was obsessed with it. I played Championship Manager daily, for hours on end, especially at the weekends, beer in hand, winning every league, cup and award possible. And then I gave up on football and now it doesn't even feel like those days existed. It was fun whilst it lasted and probably the only time that Newcastle United will ever win the Champions League.

10. Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
Finishing up with one of the best horror games that I played back in the day; a game that I got stuck in and never completed. It pained me at the time because I had been so into completing Legacy of Kain, thoroughly enjoying the dark story play out, something didn't make sense and I gave up. Recently I picked it up again and do intend to go back through to completion this time around. The series is an old one, with intertwining stories, that really deserves a continuation. The story of the game, has a split timeline, giving you control of two protagonists, Kain and Raziel, in what is a vampire, action adventure game with some hack and slash elements. If you like your horror games and haven't played any of the games in this series, then I recommend that you do.

So there we have it. My Xbox adventure and the most memorable games that I have played so far. The adventure continues. I own two modded Xbox and now have a library of around 100 games that I intend to play. The console was ahead of its time, which is seen in the fact that some games were outputting at 720p; meaning that you can play games on your HD TV, without them looking shitty. The other thing that makes this console a fantastic system to stick with today, is its ease at being modded, given that it is essentially a stripped down PC, there are many things that can be done to it to enhance it; for example I have a massive hard drive on one and a massive library of emulators on another. Oh and one more thing...collecting for Xbox in the UK, right now, is cheap as chips. 

Happy Gaming!

Twitter: @illuminatitingz
Youtube: Yogi Gamer




Friday, 6 January 2017

Collecting Sealed Video Games (is it worth it)?

Happy New Year and all that jazz. Did you get all the games you wanted for Christmas or like myself, did you buy yourself, all the games that you wanted for Christmas, before Christmas? Whatever the case may be, do you intend to or do you already collect sealed copies of games?

The question of whether it is worth collecting in such a manner is not something new. I have often seen it debated with strong opinions, often from those who are against it. Just yesterday, I posted on Instagram, a sealed copy that I own of Atelier Iris 3, asking how people felt about collecting sealed games. The response was positive, but upon waking today I can see that the debate has fired up again.

I was once told opinions are like arseholes...everybody has one.

If you are into collecting sealed games, then of course you will be for it (I'd like to think so) and if not, then, like most things that you are not into, you will most likely express why this is. The unfortunate thing about Internet debates though, is that people often shout out their mouths, in a manner that they would not, if talking face to face with someone. But having said this, cyber bullying is a topic for another day. Here is my two cents on the question asked. 'Is it worth it, collecting sealed copies of video games?'

Personally I am not too bothered about what you choose to do. If I like something in your collection I will most likely say so and if I do not, then I will most likely just move on to the next thing to amuse myself with. I do collect sealed copies of games, although it is not my intention to go out of my way to seek them out. So with this in mind, here is a list of reasons as to why I collect sealed copies of video games. Feel free to respond in the comments. I like to hear about what people are into when it comes to both gaming and game collecting.

1. If I have played a game or series of games that I have liked and especially invested a lot of hours into, then it may be the case, that I invest in a second sealed copy (if the price is right) to keep as a trophy, in the manner that in modern gaming we can finish a game and then replay it in order to get the platinum, I may want my own special trophy to show off. Typically, the games that I have for this reason are games that I played when I was younger, games from the CD period of the likes of Xbox and PS2 and games that are still at affordable prices. This may also include a special edition of a game, such as the copy of Getting Up that I own, that has the CD soundtrack with it, which cost a total of £7 to own two copies.

2. The game or series of games are no longer easy to come by (especially wild) or maybe in a series of games that I own, there is one title that is the most difficult to find. The series that springs to mind for me is the .hack series that I own; Vol 3 is still sealed. The games themselves are not rare, but because of the continuation in the story-line from one game to the next, the price of the later games can sometimes be so high, that it makes owning them all an expensive hunt. For this reason, until I get to Vol 3, it will most likely remain sealed and may stay this way if I should find a playable copy at a reasonable price, which brings me to the final reason that I collect sealed video games.

3. Financial investment. I do not wish to own every rare game that there is and I certainly wouldn't want to pay the price that it would cost to do so, but there are rare occasions when I seek a game out, because I feel that one day it may be worth some more cash than I have paid for it. It is a risk I know, but if it pays off it is an investment for my son more than myself. I want to own and play as many games that I can, before it ever gets to the point, where I feel like handing it all over to my son (should he want my collection). So these types of sealed games in my collection are few and not high on my list of priorities. With the current trends in collecting and resale, I already own some PS2 titles that are sort after and increasing in value and they are not sealed; games such as Rule of Rose and Kuon. Obviously sealed they are double...triple the price, but fuck, I ain't paying that. 

Happy gaming!

Twitter: @illuminatitingz
Youtube: Yogi Gamer